Short description

Since the 3rd/5th century the Ile-de-la-Cité has embodied royal, judicial and religious power. The dilapidated and unhealthy medieval city was razed only at the end of the 19th century, during the Great Works of Baron Haussmann.

Formerly Lutetia, the Ile-de-la-Cité is the oldest district of Paris.
In itself, it gathers a number of sites that cannot be ignored and that are close by, which facilitates their visit: the Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the Pont de l'Archevêché and a few dozen others. Its privileged central position, between the Châtelet to the North and Saint-Germain-des-Prés to the South, the Île de la Cité is truly the central crossroads of the capital.

After several expansions initiated by the kings Saint Louis and Philippe Le Bel (13th century), the Palais de la Cité was abandoned by the royal family under Charles V, who moved to the Louvre. The Ile de la Cité then had five hundred houses,

But it was mainly the works decided by Baron Haussmann in the 1860s that brought the greatest change to the Ile-de-la-Cité since the Middle Ages: the whole area between the Palais de Justice and Notre-Dame Cathedral was razed, as well as the eastern part of the chevet. Hundreds of houses and many small churches disappeared. Only two sections of the Place Dauphine and the cloister of Notre-Dame were saved from demolition. 25,000 people were evicted.

Localisation
Access

Île de la Cité
75004 Paris

  • Metro - Cité and Saint Michel - Line 4
  • Bus - Lines 21, 27, 38, 58, 70, 85, 96
Address

Île de la Cité
75004 Paris

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 51′ 17″ N 2° 20′ 45″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.85541 2.34601

 

Full description

The Ile-de-la-Cité is considered the historical administrative and judicial heart of Paris. Since the 3rd/5th century the Ile-de-la-Cité has embodied royal, judicial and religious power. The dilapidated and unhealthy medieval city was razed only at the end of the 19th century, during the Great Works of Baron Haussmann. Only remain a grandiose past concentrated on a few hundred meters, therefore convenient and easy to see and visit everything.

The Ile-de-la-Cité today

The Ile-de-la-Cité is an island located on the Seine, in the middle of Paris. It is considered as the ancient cradle of the city of Paris, formerly called Lutetia. It belongs to the 1st and 4th districts. Already in 1190, the chronicler Gui de Bazoches referred to it as "the head, the heart and the marrow of Paris".

The surface area of the Ile de la Cité is only about 22.5 hectares (55 US acres). As of January 1, 2016, its population is 891 inhabitants.

A very small island, a great destiny

Formerly Lutetia, the Ile-de-la-Cité is the oldest district of Paris.
In itself, it gathers a number of sites that cannot be ignored and that are close by, which facilitates their visit: the Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the Pont de l'Archevêché and a few dozen others. Its privileged central position, between the Châtelet to the North and Saint-Germain-des-Prés to the South, the Île de la Cité is truly the central crossroads of the capital. Walk around the banks and discover the facade of Notre-Dame de Paris and the lights of the bridges along the Seine. Admire the surroundings, strolling musicians will improvise a few numbers to entertain the passers-by. The Ile-de-la-Cité is also the ideal place to picnic by the water and enjoy the euphoria of summer nights.

Today, the Ile-de-la-Cité is largely occupied by the Palais de Justice of Paris, in which the Sainte Chapelle on one side and the Conciergerie on the other are nested. There is only a small part of the Courts in the Ile de la Cité (the rest has been transferred to the north east of the Capital). A few hundred meters away, Notre-Dame-de-Paris is under reconstruction.

(See map of 1862 above. The rue de la Barillerie is today the Boulevard du Palais). But many other things are also to be seen in its perimeter (but most of it

The birth of Lutetia in the 1st century A.D.

The name "cité" refers to the fortified limits of Paris as they were at the end of Antiquity, reduced to the island alone, and which were the urban core of the medieval city.

In 52 BC, after Julius Caesar's victory over Vercingetorix (a Gallic chief), Lutetia was born. The Gauls settled on the island and continued to live off the river, fishing and boating, while the Gallo-Roman city was built on the left bank.

At the beginning of our era, there was a temple dedicated to the glory of Jupiter on the island, probably built by the Nautes, a rich corporation of navigators. Downstream of the island was also built a palace where the representative of Rome resided.

And history follows its course on the Ile-de-la-Cité

After the splendor of the High-Empire period, the first invasions of the Barbarians, as early as 276, forced the inhabitants of Lutetia to take refuge regularly on the Ile de la Cité. It was easier to defend, while the enemy hordes ravaged Upper Lutetia.

During a wave of Huns led by Attila, the population of the left bank, galvanized by Saint Genevieve, flocked to the island. In the middle of the 9th century, a two-meter wide enclosure was built at a distance of about thirty meters from the banks of the Seine.

In 508, Clovis, king of the Franks, made Paris the capital of his kingdom and settled in the Palace of the former Roman government. With Christianization, churches multiplied on the island. The old Gallo-Roman temple was replaced between 511 and 558 by a large Christian basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen, the Cathedral of Saint Stephen of Paris, on the site of the present-day Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris,

The seat of royal and episcopal power

During the period of the Carolingian Kings, from 752 to 987, the life of the capital was concentrated on the island. But from Charlemagne onwards, the city lost its status as capital, the court moving from town to town.

Plundered, burned and devastated by the Normans three times, in 845, 856-857 and 861, it was weakened. Charles the Bald, in 877, ordered the restoration and the reinforcement of the Gallo-Roman enclosure. Two large towers, the Petit and Grand Châtelet, were also built to protect the access to the bridges, whose piers were tightened to better control the passage of ships.

When seven hundred drakkars and forty thousand Vikings, led by Sigfried, arrived on the western bank of the Ile-de-la-Cité, Gozlin, bishop of Paris, refused them passage. A long siege followed, which led to the departure of the invaders in exchange for the payment of a tribute. Apart from the City which suffered from these long months of siege, everything was destroyed and devastated on both banks. The Count of Paris, Eudes I of France, benefited from this relative victory of the Parisians and was elected King of West Francia, replacing Charles the Fat, who was accused of having delayed in protecting the city.

The return of power to the Ile-de-la-Cité

The Ile-de-la-Cité became the seat of power: to the west, the Count's palace became the royal residence, even though Hugues Capet rarely occupied it. His successors, however, made important modifications

In the 11th century, the Cité was only a vast construction site, but in 1112, King Louis VI the Fat moved into the Palais de la Cité, with his court and the Parliament, the Curia Regis

The old weakness of the island was greatly improved when Philippe Auguste, born and married in the Palais de la Cité, had an enclosure built at the turn of the 13th century on both banks of the Seine, which totally enclosed the Cité. In 1163, Bishop Maurice de Sully had launched the construction of Notre-Dame Cathedral while reforming the organization of the parishes around the twelve chapels that stood on the island, in order to establish the episcopal authority.

The center of a growing capital and the emergence of the Louvre

After several expansions initiated by the kings Saint Louis and Philippe Le Bel, the Palais de la Cité was abandoned by the royal family under Charles V, who moved to the Louvre. The Ile de la Cité then had five hundred houses,

Charles VII definitively left the palace to the Parliament. Few changes took place on the Ile de la Cité during the following centuries.

In the 16th century, it became one of the sixteen administrative districts. In 1578, Henri III decided to build the Pont Neuf (New Bridge), which was to link the two banks by passing through the downstream point of the Cité. The island ceased to be the obligatory passage between the two banks and its development and transformation were slowed down. Henri IV completed the work in 1607 and entrusted the president of the Parliament of Paris, Achille de Harlay, with the task of building a commercial space around the future Place Dauphine

On the eve of the Revolution, there were still ten parishes left out of the previous fourteen. And of course, during the Revolution, the island changed its name to Île-de-la-Fraternité.

The Great Works of Prefect Haussmann

After the violent floods of the winter of 1801-1802, it was decided to surround the entire Ile de la Cité with quays. Many other projects were elaborated in the middle of the 19th century in order to give back to the Ile-de-la-Cité the central role of its origins

But it was mainly the works decided by Baron Haussmann that brought the greatest change to the Ile-de-la-Cité since the Middle Ages: the whole area between the Palais de Justice and Notre-Dame Cathedral was razed, as well as the eastern part of the chevet. Hundreds of houses and many small churches disappeared. Only two sections of the Place Dauphine and the cloister of Notre-Dame were saved from demolition. 25,000 people were evicted.

The Cité barracks, which became the police headquarters, and the commercial court were built on the site left free. The wide opening of the Boulevard du Palais replaced the winding Rue de la Barillerie. The rue de la Cité absorbed the old streets of Marché-Palu, de la Juiverie and de la Vieille-Lanterne. The rue de Lutèce replaced the rue de Constantine. The square of Notre-Dame was enlarged by six times the surface it occupied in the Middle Ages, by the demolition of the Hôtel-Dieu, which was rebuilt between 1868 and 1875 further north. Also demolished were the canonical houses and the twenty or so sanctuaries that surrounded the cathedral in the medieval tradition. The buildings of the rue d'Arcole, which were only twenty years old, were even destroyed.

The Ile de la Cité in recent times - Changes to come

In December 2016, in a report submitted to the President of the Republic François Hollande, the president of the Center for National Monuments Philippe Bélaval and the architect Dominique Perrault propose to strengthen the cultural and tourist attractiveness of the Ile-de-la-Cité.
Thus, within this framework, promenades and pedestrian bridges would be created. The Cour du Mai (in front of the main entrance of the Palais de Justice) and the gallery of the Palais de Justice, after the departure of the court to the Cité judiciaire (in the North-East of Paris) would become a large public area, linking the Conciergerie and the Sainte-Chapelle. The courtyards of the Hôtel-Dieu, the police headquarters and the Palais de Justice would be covered by glass roofs, like the Louvre Palace.

The Ile-de-la-Cité in its geographical context

The Ile de la Cité is surrounded by two arms of the Seine: the Grand bras to the north and the Petit bras to the south. Its oblong shape is reminiscent of a cradle, as Victor Hugo pointed out in Notre-Dame de Paris. Thanks to the successive developments carried out since the first human settlements and the accumulation of embankments, the island is now eight meters higher than it was at the time, which can still be seen at the tip of the current Square du Vert-Galant. This artificial sedimentation allowed to protect the island from the floods of the Seine.

The bridges of the Ile-de-la-Cité

Nowadays, one crosses the Seine to go to the Ile de la Cité by nine bridges, which succeeded the two simple wooden footbridges that existed in antiquity.

At the end of the Middle Ages, there were five bridges, lined with houses and very crowded. At the same time, ferries ensured the transportation of people and goods from one bank to the other.

Only the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) crosses the two arms (the Grand bras and the Petit bras), allowing to link the right bank to the left bank by passing through the western point of the island;
Three structures connect the Ile de la Cité to the right bank (north) by crossing the Grand bras:

  • the Pont au Change,
  • the Notre-Dame Bridge,
  • the Pont d'Arcole.

Four bridges connect the Ile de la Cité to the left bank by (south) crossing the Petit bras:

  • the Pont Saint-Michel,
  • the Petit-Pont,
  • the Pont au Double,
  • the Pont de l'Archevêché.

Finally, only one, the Pont Saint-Louis, allows to reach the Saint-Louis island  (Ile Saint-Louis).

Squares and green spaces of the Ile-de-la-Cité

Until the 19th century, the Ile de la Cité was only a maze of alleys built on both sides of the street.

Today, the island has four green spaces: the Square du Vert-Galant on the western tip, the Square de l'Île-de-France on the eastern tip, the Square de la Place-Dauphine and, around Notre-Dame, the garden of the Place Jean-Paul-II (formerly the garden of the Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame) and the Square Jean-XXIII (formerly the Square de l'Archevêché), to which we can add the small garden of the Rue des Ursins.

In addition to these squares, there are four squares: the Pont-Neuf square, the Dauphine square (behind the courthouse), the "Parvis Notre-Dame - Jean-Paul-II square" (formerly the Parvis-Notre-Dame square), and the Louis-Lépine square where the flower and bird market is located.

Quays of the Ile-de-la-Cité

The quays of the island are divided into six sections:

to the north, the quays of the Clock, Corsica, and Flowers,
to the south, the quays of Orfèvres and Marché-Neuf,
to the east, the quai de l'Archevêché.

Remarkable buildings left by 10 centuries of history

Two buildings from the medieval period are vestiges of the "Palais de la Cité":

  • the prison of the Conciergerie
  • the Sainte-Chapelle of Louis IX (dating from 1245).

There are also :

  • the Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • the police headquarters
  • the Palace of Justice
  • the Hôtel-Dieu
  • the Commercial Court (It was not transferred to the Cité Administrative like the other courts, but kept at 1 Quai de Corse)
  • the Memorial of the Martyrs of the Deportation, built from 1954 to 1964 by the architect Georges-Henri Pingusson

Listed historical monuments of the Ile de la Cité

We have grouped together in the list below (and to facilitate their visits) all the classified historical monuments of the Ile de la Cité. They are all within a radius of less than 1 km and can therefore be easily visited on foot.

  • Palais de justice (75001) Boulevard du Palais - 48° 51′ 21″ north, 2° 20′ 41″ east
  • Place Dauphine (75001) Place Dauphine - 48° 51′ 23″ north, 2° 20′ 33″ east
  • Building (75001) 12 place Dauphine - 25 quai de l'Horloge - 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 34″ east
  • Building (75001) 13 place Dauphine - 50 quai des Orfèvres - 48° 51′ 22″ north, 2° 20′ 32″ east
  • Building (75001) 14 place Dauphine - 27 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 34″ east
  • Building (75001) 15 place Dauphine - 52-54 quai des Orfèvres - 48° 51′ 23″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east<//li>
  • Building (75001) 16 place Dauphine - 29 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 33″ east
  • Building (75001) 17 place Dauphine - 56 quai des Orfèvres 48° 51′ 23″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east
  • Building (75001) 19-21 place Dauphine - 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east
  • Building (75001) 23 place Dauphine - 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east
  • Building (75001) 24 place Dauphine - 37 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east
  • Building(75001) 25 place Dauphine - 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 30″ east
  • Building (75001) 26 place Dauphine - 39 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 31″ east
  • Building (75001) 27 place Dauphine 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 30″ east
  • Building (75001) 28 place Dauphine 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 30″ east
  • Building (75001) 29 place Dauphine - 74 quai des Orfèvres 48° 51′ 25″
  • Building (75001) 31 place Dauphine - 15 place du Pont-Neuf - 76 quai des Orfèvres 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 29″ east
  • Building (75001) 19 quai de l'Horloge - 2 rue de Harlay 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 35″ east
  • Building (75001) 21 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 35″ east
  • Building (75001) 23 quai de l'Horloge 48° 51′ 25″ north, 2° 20′ 35″ east
  • Building (75001) 68-72 quai des Orfèvres - 48° 51′ 24″ north, 2° 20′ 30″ east
  • Pont Neuf (75001) Pont Neuf - 48° 51′ 26″ north, 2° 20′ 30″ east 1888 1889 1914
  • Sainte-Chapelle (75001) Boulevard du Palais  - 48° 51′ 19″ north, 2° 20′ 42″ east
  • Equestrian statue of Henri IV (75001) Place du Pont-Neuf - 48° 51′ 26″ north, 2° 20′ 27″ east
  • Guimard sign of the Cité (75004) station place Louis-Lépine - rue de Lutèce - marché aux Fleurs - 48° 51′ 19″ north, 2° 20′ 50″ east
  • Wallace Fountains (75004) place Louis-Lépine - 48° 51′ 19″ north, 2° 20′ 51″ east
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral (75004) Parvis Notre-Dame - place Jean-Paul-II - 48° 51′ 11″ north, 2° 21′ 00″ east
  • Saint-Aignan Chapel (75004) 24 rue Chanoinesse - 19 rue des Ursins - 48° 51′ 16″ north, 2° 21′ 01″ east
  • Drinking establishment (75004) 24 rue Chanoinesse - 48° 51′ 15″ north, 2° 21′ 01″ east
  • Hôtel de la Motte-Montgaubert (75004) 12 rue Chanoinesse - 2, 4, 6 rue des Chantres - 1, 3 rue des Ursins - 48° 51′ 14″ north, 2° 21′ 05″ east
  • Memorial of the Martyrs of the Deportation (75004) 1-3-7 quai de l'Archevêché - 48° 51′ 06″ north, 2° 21′ 09″ east

 

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